Humidifying – without a humidifier

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I don’t know what winter is like where you live (if, in fact, it IS winter where you live), but here in the Ottawa Valley winter is cold. Very cold. And very, very dry. It’s not uncommon to spontaneously bleed from the nose as you battle a searing headache and croak for more water through parched lips. And that’s not even an extreme case. In our house, the Pie’s sinuses dry up and cause him to snore. My asthma acts up, meaning I cough and wheeze all the time, and, because we have wall-to-wall carpeting, Gren has been avoiding us because we static shock him every time we pet him. It’s no fun.

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We have a humidifier in our bedroom, and it helps a whole bunch. We did our research and got the one that worked the best for the money we wanted to pay and we’re very happy with our choice (remember, kids: always do your research when buying an appliance). I also picked up a travel-sized humidifier for the various hotel rooms I seem to be finding myself in these days (and Winnipeg is even colder and dryer than Ottawa, and I’m in it as we speak).

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But sometimes you don’t want to buy a humidifier. Sometimes you can’t afford one (the ones that won’t give you Legionnaires’ Disease or fester with black mould tend to run a bit expensive). Sometimes your dormitory has ruled them out (usually for mould reasons). Or maybe you just need to give a bit of extra oomph to the humidifier you have. Here are seven quick-and-dirty tips to help you humidify your home the old-fashioned way.

1. Shower with the door open.

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Yeah, so this won’t work if you have roommates or small children or larger children or children at all. But if you don’t, skip turning on the exhaust fan and get things all good and steamy.

2. Get more house plants.

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So plants, when they’re done with all the nutrients and stuff in the water they suck up through their roots, basically sweat out water vapour through their leaves. It’s called transpiration. And sweaty plants make for a more humid environment.

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3. Skip the dryer.

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When you’re doing laundry, hang your clothes to dry inside the house in a warm spot. As the clothes dry the water on them will evaporate into the air in your house, making it more moist. MOIST. Plus you save on energy costs.

4. Spritzy-spritzy.

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Grab a spray bottle of water and gently – GENTLY – spritz your curtains with a little bit of water. You don’t want them soaked or anything, but a little misting on them will produce the same effect as wet laundry – without putting your skivvies in the middle of the living room.

5. Set out bowls.

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Place shallow dishes of water on sunny windowsills or on top of heating vents and the water will evaporate as it warms. Make them pretty crystal vases and you’ll add to the decor of your home. Add a floating bloom or some pretty pebbles. Granted, if you have small children or pets, leaving a bowl of water on the floor in your kitchen is asking for trouble, so be warned.

6. Wet a towel.

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Run a small dish towel under your tap and then wring it out thoroughly. Lay it over a heating vent (make sure the fabric isn’t so thick that it blocks the warm air completely) and let the heat percolate through and humidify the air as the towel dries. Again, probably not a good idea with small children. This is why we can’t have nice things.

7. Cook!

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When in doubt, cook. Whip up a batch of chilli or soup, anything on the stovetop that will get hot and steamy. I like to make a giant pot of tea, and when the kettle whistles and I’ve poured my pot and turned off the burner, I put the kettle back on the cooling element to let it steam itself out.

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You could also try a “simmer,” which is super trendy right now. Set a saucepan full of water on your stove and heat it to a low simmer. Toss in some whole spices: bay leaves, cardamom pods, star anise, cinnamon, and allspice; or rosemary, citrus zest, and lavender – or some combination thereof – and let that sit there simmering and scenting your house while it steams it up. Just keep an eye on the pot and add more water occasionally so it doesn’t all boil away.

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Slouchy Bowl

Check out this bowl I made. It’s got a definite slouch to it.

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Half-slouch.

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Full slouch.

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My mother had given me a wad of the squishy rope you put inside piping when you are upholstering things. It’s essentially a wad of unbleached cotton loosely held together with a bit of white thread. I didn’t know what to do with it (me? upholster? you gotta be kidding.), so I made this bowl. You could also make this out of any form of cable or rope. You just need a needle, thread, and a pair of scissors to cut the thread (or your teeth if you’re hardcore).

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All I did was coil the rope around itself and start sewing it together. You can use any stitch you want, any kind of thread. I used green so you could see it but it wasn’t too flashy.

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You can change the width of the bowl by sewing the rope together at different angles. It’s hard to explain but you would see what I mean if you were doing it. It just kind of comes naturally. I made this little divot to come up through the centre to provide stability for the bowl.

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When you flip it right side up at the early stages you have a wee sombrero.

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Then I just kept going until I was happy with it and I ran out of rope. You can store whatever you want in it, provided it’s not liquid (it’s not that kind of bowl). Y’know, if you need a place for your copper-coloured pine cones.

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Or your sunglasses.  It’s up to you!

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Puffy Pumpkin Pancakes

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We sent Gren ahead of us to Ottawa a week before we moved, so he wouldn’t get stressed out during the chaos of moving.  But in the days following his departure, we kept finding ourselves looking for him, or expecting him to suddenly appear.  We kept  having to remind ourselves we would see him shortly, but it was still sad.  Anyway, you all know that we feed Gren pumpkin regularly to keep him, well, regular.  After he left, I had almost a full can sitting around, so we decided to use up the last of our flour and whip ourselves up some pumpkin pancakes for breakfast one day.  Not very seasonal for August, but they were darned tasty anyway.

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Turn your oven on to 250°F and chuck in a heatsafe dish (this will keep your cooked pancakes warm until it’s time to eat).

In a bowl, whisk together 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour (or a gluten-free equivalent), 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves.  If you have pumpkin pie spice on hand, that will do instead of measuring out all the other spices.  If you’re feeling lazy.  I also added in 1/4 cup sweetened desiccated coconut, for texture.

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In another bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups milk, 3/4 cup pumpkin purée, 2 tablespoons melted butter, 1 egg, and a drop each of vanilla extract and coconut extract (optional).

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Mix the dry ingredients with the wet ones.  The batter will be pretty thick.

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Scoop about 1/3 cup of the batter into a heated pan and cook for however long it takes for you to be happy with the consistency of your pancakes.  These ones are pretty thick so it took a while at medium heat.  The batter makes about 12 pancakes.

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Serve with butter and maple syrup, or whatever else floats your boat.  LIKE BACON.

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Quick and Easy Air Freshener

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I love fresh air.  I’d rather be cold and have the windows open than be boxed in a stuffy house.  And commercial perfumes tend to aggravate my asthma, so if I can avoid them I will.

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Spring is ALMOST at hand in Newfoundland, but the days when I can justify turning off the heat and leaving the windows wide open have yet to come.  And having an active dog and an active man in the house, coupled with the variety of things I cook, means our house could use a bit of fresh air during the winter months.

I saw this post from Smashed Peas and Carrots a while back and I thought it might be worth a try.

Basically all you need is a small jar, some baking soda, and some essential oils.  The original post required a mason-jar style lid, where the lid itself could be replaced with perforated scrapbook paper, a great way to personalize the jar.  I don’t have any scrapbook paper, so I decided to use fabric and elastics instead.

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I also didn’t have any spare jars at the moment, but I had some large ramekins that were sitting around so I thought I’d use those instead.

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So it’s simple: take about 1/2 cup baking soda and plop it in your jar.  Or bowl.  Or whatever.

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Shake about 8-12 drops essential oil of your choice onto the baking soda.

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Affix your lid, which could really be anything, provided it has holes for air to flow through.  I have a small patch of fabric here (charming thrifted vintage handkerchiefs) that I fixed in place with an elastic band.  Give the contents a gentle shake to mix them up a bit.

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I made four separate bowls, for the main activity rooms in our house: tea tree for the bathroom, lavender for the bedroom, and orange for the living room.

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As an experiment, I also tried some rose water in baking soda and put that in my office.  I doubt it will last as long as the ones with the essential oils in it, but it still smells lovely!

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Keep the jars or bowls out of the sun in a place that gets good air circulation and I think they’ll probably last you at least a month, maybe two!

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This one is on the table by the entrance to the dining room. We walk past this all the time, wafting air to and fro.

Pfft. I can do that: Ali Does It turns three!

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Can you believe it?  I’ve been Doing It Myself for THREE FREAKING YEARS now!  Well, it’s been longer than that, but today marks the third anniversary of when I started putting my foibles and failures (and too many pictures of my dog) up on the internet for you to enjoy.  And I hope you’ve enjoyed it!

How to commemorate this, though?  I’ve been doing a lot of cooking, so I didn’t really want to do that.  And because Christmas is over and we’re moving in a couple months I don’t have any real crafty/fixy projects on the horizon.  But.  I saw this back on Etsy a year or so ago and I thought, I could TOTALLY make that myself.  It won’t be as GOOD, mind you, but I could totally do it.  So I’m gonna.  Here goes.

Because I can never do anything in half measures, I decided to make THREE bowls instead of just the one, and they’re gonna be nesting bowls.

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So I needed three bowls of approximately the same shape but different sizes.  Fortunately I have three stainless steel ones that will do just fine.

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You also need a barrier between the bowl and the paste.  You can use plastic wrap but I didn’t want to deal with wrinkles so I used petroleum jelly, which is the only thing I didn’t have on hand and had to buy.

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I still have stacks and stacks of newspapers to use, and so I tore a bunch of those up into thin strips, following the grain of the paper.

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And you need paste as well, obviously.  I went with the same recipe I used for the magnificent and popular papier mâché helicopter piñata I made a few years ago, which is 2 cups flour to 3 cups water.  BAM.

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Make sure to spread newspaper or drop cloths or garbage bags on your work area so you don’t have to deal with errant splashes of dried paste later on.  This, incidentally, is a good project to do while watching movies/television on a bad-weather day.  I curled up with Supernatural, which is not a very good series, but that Jensen Ackles is pretty enough to make it worth watching, and the plot is never too heavy that I have to keep my eyes glued to the screen a hundred percent of the time.

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Start by smearing the outside of your bowl with petroleum jelly.  Try to put it on as smoothly as possible, but make sure it’s pretty thick at the same time.  If you’re using plastic wrap, try to avoid too many wrinkles, and wrap the plastic around the edges of the bowl as well.

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Then have at it, pasting up your strips of newsprint and sticking them to your bowl form.  Do a layer or two, allow it to dry completely, then do another one.  I did a layer, waited an hour, then did another layer and let that dry overnight, then repeated the process the next day.

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This project will definitely take you a couple of days, so make sure to keep your paste tightly sealed when you’re not using it.

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When the bowl is as thick as you want it to be, and it has dried all the way through, use a thin knife to carefully pry the bowl from the other bowl.

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Wipe off any excess petroleum jelly or peel away the plastic wrap. I found that a cotton tea towel did the best job at getting all the petroleum jelly off.

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Trim the edges of the bowl if you like with a sharp pair of scissors.

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I left mine to cure another day like this, after sealing the open edges with some white glue.

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I flipped the glue over and discovered that it was actually called Troll Booger Glue.  I can’t begin to tell you how delighted I was by that.

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Now, the bowls on Etsy were lined with gold leaf, but I ain’t got the time nor the money for that.  I do, however, have some copper-coloured spray paint.  So I’m going to use that (taking all the necessary precautions, of course).

I couldn’t find my breathing mask so I went with a bandana.  The Pie took one look at me and started laughing so I thought I’d share.

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If you’re using spray paint on your bowls, make sure to do the inside of the bowl first.  That way you can avoid getting the wrong colour on the wrong side of the bowl.

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Once the inside is done and dried, flip the bowls upside down and do the outside, being careful to direct your spray so it doesn’t get underneath the bowls.  I used blue, white, and black.

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It took a couple coats to make the lines of print disappear.  I thought I had some white spray paint but it turned out that I only had gesso.

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And the gesso only worked so well so I ended up spraying over it with blue.  After that was fully cured, I gave it a once-over with some spray varnish, for added sheen and protection.

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And that’s it.  Not bad, not bad at all.

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Egg Quickie

A couple of weeks ago I was procrastinating on the internet and I found a food blogger who discussed how after getting her husband and son off to work and school in the morning there was little time for her to find a nutritious breakfast (I wish now I had bookmarked the page).  Her solution was to take an egg to work and cook it there in the microwave.  We all know that eggs are the ultimate superfood, and a nice hot breakfast is a great way to start your day.

Before I was allowed to use the stove as a child, I used to make scrambled eggs in the microwave.  It’s easy, painless, and nearly instantaneous.

All you need is an egg.  Or two.  A fork.  And a coffee mug or very small microwaveable bowl.  The benefit of the mug is that the handle is cool enough to hold onto, while the bowl tends to get a little toasty.

Take the eggs and crack ’em in your container.  Scramble with fork.  You don’t have to worry about cooking spray.  The eggs will naturally peel away from the edges of the mug when they cook.

Feel free to stir in things, like cheese, or parsley, or Tabasco sauce (I did).  Or basil, or avocado, or red peppers.  Or whatever floats your boat.  Bacon, maybe?

Nuke it for about a minute, depending on your microwave.  Wash your fork while you wait.

BING!  Eat yer egg(s).

A good quick breakfast or lunch or snack with minimal dishes to do and a whole heap of nutritional goodness.

Home-Made Chicken Noodle Soup

Every time we have whole roasted poultry in the house I make soup afterwards.  Soup is a great thing to have in your freezer for days when you’re feeling lazy, and making soup from leftover chicken or turkey ensures that you can get every scrap of meat from that bird.

I saved the carcass and the wings from the tarragon chicken we had the other night.  If you’re not prepared to make soup right away you can always wrap up the carcass and freeze it for a later date.  Just don’t forget about it, otherwise you’ll be pulling bird bones out of your freezer for months.

Anyway, take your carcass, including wing bones or leftover thighs or whatever, plus all your skin and whatever you used to season the bird (in this case I stuffed it with lemons) and chuck it in a large pot.  Add enough water to just cover the whole thing, and drop in a spoonful or so of powdered chicken stock.

Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and let that sucker simmer for about an hour or so.

Remove from the heat and strain your broth.  I set a large colander inside a large bowl and pour the whole pot contents into that.

Then I can just lift the colander and all the broth drains out, leaving me with the bits still in the colander.

Return the broth to the pot and let the boiled carcass cool enough to handle.

Here’s where you get to play your favourite carrion bird, and you can go over that carcass and remove every last scrap of meat from every part of it. 

There’s always a lot more meat on the chicken’s back (which is usually the underside if you roast it breast-up) than you think, especially around the ribs.  Get all those little tidbits out and drop them into the broth. 

You can now discard your picked-over carcass, flabby skin, gristle, and whatever else was in the pot that isn’t meat.

Return the pot with the broth and chicken bits to the heat and bring to a boil.  At this point I like to add a bit of oregano.

Then you can pour in the noodle of your choice.  This time I used macaroni.

Boil for 10-15 minutes or until the pasta is cooked, then serve.  As I said, this stuff freezes well and it keeps in the fridge for about a week.